G2E Continues to EvolveBy David Schwartz, CDC Gaming ReportsSeptember 27, 2017 at 11:52 amThe Global Gaming Expo (G2E) is upon us once more. Four days of exhibitions and education that prepare industry professionals for the coming year. A look ahead shows that there will be a great deal to learn.With 11 tracks, this year’s G2E has a robust offering of education sessions. Tracks include: the National Conference on Responsible Gambling’s Conference on Gambling and Addiction, Global Gaming Women, IAGA Best Practices Institute, Tribal Gaming, iGaming Congress, Security and Surveillance, Gaming Leadership, Evolution of Game Play, Customer Intelligence, Revenue Diversification, Optimizing Opportunities, and Business Opportunities and Obstacles.The tracks themselves show the quandary that casinos face in 2017. While there are still straightforward operational discussions on security and surveillance, much of the conversation has become more existential: where does gaming go from here? How does its leadership become more inclusive? How does it adjust to new technologies? How does it talk to its customers? And how does it know which opportunities to explore and which to pass on? This is an industry that, in many ways, is facing an identity crisis. There is no longer (if there ever was) much consensus on how casinos should adapt to a changing world.From an operational standpoint, the big issue hanging over “the show,” the one that’s driving all that existential angst, is the same that’s been around since the end of the recession: how, with geographic expansion near an end, can the industry continue to grow? Operators aren’t looking for new jurisdictions to move into or Indian tribes to partner with so much; now they are trying to figure out how to convert non-gamblers into customers.So the seemingly-perennial question of “millennials” and gambling has lost none of its urgency. That’s why sessions on skill games and esports are on the rise, despite their marked difference from traditional gaming. These have been on operators’ radar for a while, but the industry is getting enough experience with their rollout that the discussion is shifting from hypothetical to practical. For that reason, topics include how casino design can be adjusted to be more amenable to esports to a nuts-and-bolts talk about running esports tournaments by Unikrn’s Carson Knuth and Kingsley EdwardsAnother growth area is more deeply tied to traditional gambling, but it has the potential to alter the casino landscape. The American Gaming Association’s lobbying efforts on sports betting have moved the needle enough that sports betting is as important a topic as it has ever been, with a half-dozen education sessions dedicated to it.The keynotes, too, show, if not the answers, the questions that are being asked. Monday’s is a talk on the power of networking for career growth, presented by Global Gaming Women. Tuesday is a check on the pulse of the industry itself with presentations on the state of the industry and a view from the top. Wednesday’s is a look at how Dave and Buster’s has channeled a different kind of gaming to growth in a variety of markets. Thursday has Magic Johnson taking one slot to talk about his career with the other devoted to maximizing “brainomics” to advance innovative thinking. More signs that this is a business in search of its own future. Further, Johnson will be having a conversation with AGA President and CEO Geoff Freeman about the future of sports betting legalization.The exhibition floor, as always, is packed with solutions to the many problems that gaming operators face. The 423 exhibitors can help casinos do everything from get guests in the door to better purify the air inside. Much of the floor, as always, will be dominated by the major slot manufacturers, but there are plenty of smaller booths to look at. Many offer back-end solutions that customers hopefully never notice, but some are more customer-facing. David Musty Putters and the Gene Simmons Vault Experience each have booths; presumably they are pitching themselves as perks for favored customers deeply into golf or 1970s rock, respectively. (For those into both, KISS by Monster Mini Golf is a dream come true, no doubt.)An interesting note: the Wikipedia entry for the Global Gaming Expo is in the “video games” genre, which gives an idea of where at least some people see “gaming,” although the entry is currently flagged for “multiple issues” so it might not be an unimpeachable source.2017’s Global Gaming Expo will begin with the promise of all gaming shows: that it will give its participants at least some clarity about the pressing issues of today. As the industry changes to survive in an evolving world, those issues themselves have morphed. What was once relatively a straightforward about regulatory compliance and operational excellence has become a broader investigation into the nature of what gaming must be. Even when the answers don’t satisfy you, the questions must stimulate you.